World Has High Expectations for Arms Trade Conference, Delegates Have Obligation to Negotiate Treaty That Will Help in Advancing Peace, Security, Speakers Say

10 July 2012
DC/3367

World Has High Expectations for Arms Trade Conference, Delegates Have Obligation to Negotiate Treaty That Will Help in Advancing Peace, Security, Speakers Say

10 July 2012
General Assembly
DC/3367
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

United Nations Conference

on the Arms Trade Treaty

7th Meeting (AM)


World Has High Expectations for Arms Trade Conference, Delegates Have Obligation


to Negotiate Treaty That Will Help in Advancing Peace, Security, Speakers Say


The world was watching and the pressure mounting to hammer out in the coming days an effective instrument that would address licit and illicit conventional arms flows, delegates were told today as the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty continued its work at Headquarters.


The world had high expectations from the Conference and the participants had an obligation not to let it down, said South Sudan’s representative, summing up a tone of urgency heard during this morning’s general exchange of views.


As the Conference continued its second week of work, a number of delegates emphasized the grave responsibility facing them in the coming weeks and some raised concerns about frankly differing views on critical issues.


Peru’s representative said, for example, given the lingering impasse in the disarmament machinery for more than a decade, the global spotlight was indeed sharply focused on the United Nations’ performance and this Conference.


“Arms cannot continue being commercialized without regulations,” he said.  “The present situation does not allow us to avoid diversion (of arms) to the illicit market, or to the criminal and terrorist organizations which destabilize our societies.”


“It depends on us,” he added, those entrusted with the responsibility to negotiate the treaty, to finally give the world a tool that would help in achieving international peace and security.  “The time has come for the international community to agree on how to regulate the international trade of arms.”


However, many conflicting views had been expressed on a central negotiating point:  whether or not to include small arms and light weapons and ammunition in the category of weapons governed by the treaty.  Some delegates had supported including only the seven categories of weapons in the United Nations Register of Conventional Weapons, while others wanted a broader scope.


Several African delegates equated small arms and light weapons with weapons of mass destruction.  Nigeria’s delegate implored that small arms, light weapons and ammunition should be covered by the treaty’s scope because their easy access and availability to unauthorized persons made them “the perfect instrument of mass destruction”. 


“The world needs to act,” he said.  “We do not see an ATT without the most basic of arms:  small arms and light weapons.  Our children, your grandsons, would one day point to these collective efforts.”


Gabon’s representative agreed.  “It was high time that the international community closed a legal gap and adopt an instrument that would regulate weapons that had become weapons of mass destruction,” he said.  “It is essential we arrive at our objectives.  We need a binding instrument to be an essential tool to combat organized crime and trafficking.  Piracy and the use of child soldiers cannot be eradicated without regulating the arms trade.”


Iran’s representative pointed out that the treaty’s scope would be a determining factor in the acceptance of treaty provisions, and noted that his country was not in favour of a treaty that would include small arms and light weapons, ammunition, missiles, components of conventional arms, related technologies, service, equipment and material.  


He said Iran, and a considerable number of other States, had already expressed reservations about the advisability of developing an arms trade treaty at the current juncture.  “In such a situation and in the absence of an acceptable text as a starting point for negotiating this very complex treaty, preparation of a compilation of concrete proposals of Member States is very crucial for facilitating the negotiations,” he said.  Referring to discussions during the preparatory committee meetings, he said there clearly were extremely diverging views regarding such issues as objectives, principles, scope and especially parameters.


India’s representative said the Conference could, in fact, build on the painstaking efforts and consensus building that produced existing agreements and instruments, including the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms and the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.  However, she cautioned that “on an issue as important at the ATT, rushing the process or imposing artificial timelines may be counter-productive.”


Also addressing the Conference this morning were the representatives of Colombia, Algeria, Montenegro, Bangladesh, Belgium, United Republic of Tanzania, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Benin, Ghana, Poland, Congo, Papua New Guinea and Burkina Faso.


The Chair announced that the Main Committees would resume their work at the afternoon session.


The Conference will meet 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 July, to hear statements from non-governmental organizations and continue the Main Committees’ work.


Background


Delegates to the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty met today to continue their general exchange of views in continuation of the negotiations towards a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons. (For background, see Press Releases DC/3361 and DC/3362 of 3 July 2012.)


Statements


MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia) said that a robust treaty should include the highest possible international standards, prevent the diversion of arms to the illicit market and contribute to efforts to eliminate conflict and armed violence.  Small arms and light weapons, ammunition and explosives should be within the treaty’s scope, as those munitions caused the deaths of innocent civilians worldwide.  The treaty should cover all actors in transfers, from the life cycle of the weapon, its birth to its destruction.


In addition, the treaty should respect United Nations Charter principles and include the establishment of a mechanism of information exchange through which exporting countries notify the States involved of the details of the transit and final destination of all weapons sold.  All weapons should be marked at the time of manufacture and information should be kept in a database to allow for an effective tracking mechanism.  His country agreed with the call for establishing a mechanism for cooperation and international assistance.


MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said the Conference’s goal was to produce a treaty that took into consideration arms exporters and importers, as well as the victims of the illicit arms trade.  However, an instrument that was too restrictive could encourage illicit arms trafficking.  To succeed, the treaty needed to contain clear language that was simple and easy to implement.


The treaty should establish common international norms aimed at reducing human suffering linked to the illicit arms trade, with the aim of regulating the arms trade and combating and eradicating illicit trafficking, he said.  The instrument should also respect United Nations Charter principles and include the seven categories in the United Nations Register, as well as small arms and light weapons and ammunition.  It should not cover technology and equipment exclusively used to develop, produce, maintain or improve one of the above-mentioned categories of weapons, he said.  In addition, the treaty should exclusively include arms transfers between States or authorized by a State


MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ( Montenegro) said that the issue of conventional weapons was a grave problem that had become one of the most pressing ones in the world today.  The time had come for the international community to conclude a strong, robust and effective Arms Trade Treaty that would regulate the legal trade in arms and prevent an irresponsible and illegal trade.  An arms trade treaty should make a difference in the maintenance of international peace and security.  Such a treaty needed to be broad and comprehensive in scope.  It must include not only the seven categories of weapons in the United Nations Register of conventional weapons, but also small arms and light weapons and their ammunition.


He said that the treaty had to impose controls on arms transfers and brokering.  It also had to have strong and robust criteria and should be implemented through national control systems.  The provisions of the treaty should make national reports by countries mandatory, but should take into account the capacity of countries to prepare the reports and provide assistance where necessary.  An arms trade treaty needed to be something that had the broadest possible support of the international community.  In that regard, it was important that the present negotiations be held in a transparent and open manner, in order to allow for the achievement of a substantive outcome.  Montenegro attached great importance to the arms trade treaty and strongly supported the negotiations.  His country was ready to engage and contribute constructively toward a strong and binding treaty.


MUSTAFUZUR RAHMAN ( Bangladesh) expressed support for the principles set out in the Chair’s paper, in particular the references to the United Nations Charter.  But, the paper, obviously, did not adequately reflect the goals and objectives that the arms trade treaty sought to achieve.  That section, therefore, needed to be further elaborated.  The goals and objectives needed to be absolutely clear, for successful negotiations.  Bangladesh reaffirmed that the arms trade treaty was to prevent and combat illicit trafficking of conventional weapons.  Thus, it was necessary to appropriately regulate arms trade activities without affecting legitimate arms trade or a state’s legitimate right to self-defence.  States should also be able to meet legitimate defence and security needs and assist in international peacekeeping operations when possible.


He said that the treaty should be comprehensive in scope but feasible for implementation, focusing on targeted problems. It should cover export, import, state-to-state, state-to-private end-user, commercial expertise, re-export, transit, temporary transfer and transhipment and brokerage of all conventional arms, including, but not limited to, heavy weapons, small arms and light weapons, ammunitions, parts and components and so forth.  To be effective, the treaty should contain a comprehensive system to control the cross-border movement of all conventional weapons, munitions and associated parts, technology and equipment.  Those items should be clearly defined and laid out in a detailed annex that should be updated at regular intervals.  The definition of conventional weapons to be included in the treaty should be flexible and adaptable to future technological developments in the arms industry.


ENRIQUE ROMÁN-MOREY ( Peru) said that given the impasse in the disarmament machinery, the performance of the United Nations was being judged and the Conference had brought together States’ interests and views to produce a treaty that would regulate the arms trade and prevent the diversion of weapons into illicit markets.  One of the central negotiating points was the inclusion of small arms and light weapons and ammunition.  His country was part of a region possessing between 45 and 80 million firearms.  More than 40 per cent of homicides, with firearms not produced in the region.  A multilateral approach was unavoidable and responsibility of safe trade must be shared between importers and exporters.


“The time has come for the international community to agree on how to regulate the international trade of arms,” he said.  “Arms cannot continue being commercialized without regulations.  The present situation does not allow us to avoid diversion to the illicit market, or to the criminal and terrorist organizations which destabilize our societies.  It depends on us, those whom each of our States have been entrusted with the responsibility to negotiate this treaty, finally to give the world a tool to help to find international peace and security.”


Mr. DE CLERCQ ( Belgium) said that his country endorsed the European Union’s statement.


JUSTIN SERUHERE (United Republic of Tanzania) said his country had constantly been the home of refugees and illicit cross-border weapons, which threatened its peace, stability and security.  The irresponsible production, sale, transfer and supply of conventional arms contributed to instability and the violation of human rights.  The misuses of weapons had destroyed the environment, infrastructure, development and crippled economic growth.  “The time has, therefore, come for us to stop being the victims of illicit transfers of arms that violate international law as well as international humanitarian law,” he said.  An arms trade treaty would reduce the loss of lives, human suffering and economic destruction caused by crime, terrorist acts, piracy and drug trafficking.


A legally binding treaty should establish the highest possible international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.  He welcomed the Chair’s non-paper as a base for negotiations.  It was important to include the means of transportation used in arms deliveries, he said.  Other necessary elements included international cooperation, victim assistance, and an implementation support unit.  “The ATT should not be a tool for disarmament, rather a tool for arms control,” he said, adding that the instrument should be non-discriminatory and implementation must involve the inclusion and participation of all Member States through the Secretariat of the United Nations.


Mr. SANTIAGO ( Philippines) said that his country had steadfastly supported the efforts of the United Nations to reach out to Member States in negotiating an agreement that would address unregulated transfers of conventional arms and their illicit diversion through internationally agreed standards on conventional arms transfers.  The country expected an agreement at the present conference that would uphold the inherent right of states to self-defence and to territorial integrity.  It also viewed with concern the role of corruption and money laundering in unregulated arms transfers and would like to see those issues addressed in the draft agreement.  He hoped to see a final text that would not impinge on the legitimate trade in arms and that would ensure respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law.  He hoped that a convergence of views could be reached among Member States on the provisions of the proposed arms trade treaty and looked forward to working closely with the community of nations and relevant stakeholders in the endeavour.


OSMAN KEH KAMARA ( Sierra Leone) said that if there had been an arms trade treaty in existence before the outbreak of civil war in his country, an obligation would have compelled some countries to look at the consequences of allowing arms to cross their borders.  There was an intrinsic relationship between the misguided arms trade and internal political crises in Member States.  The political crises in most countries in the West Africa subregion were fuelled by easy access to arms entering the subregion.  Armed conflicts in the subregion were largely linked to uncontrolled access to arms by rebel groups, which invariably led to internal displacement of persons, and the most vulnerable were women and children. Sierra Leone believed in the establishment of a legal framework that would respond to the challenges of the arms trade.  In Africa, small arms and light weapons were the real weapons of mass destruction, as they had the most devastating effects on the continent, fuelling all types of conflicts and breeding insecurity.


An arms trade treaty must legally bind States to deny arms transfers where there was a substantial risk that such arms would be used to facilitate serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, would impair activities related to substantial development or would perpetuate a pattern of gender-based armed violence.  Denial should also apply where there was the risk of the diversion of the arms, including diversion to illicit markets, unintended uses or unauthorized end-users or non-state actors.  In order to be effective, such a treaty must be based on existing obligations of states under international law and should reflect the inherent right of all states to acquire legitimate arms for self-defence and for security needs, as defined under the United Nations Charter.  The consequence of inadequate controls on arms transfers and the widespread availability and misuse of weapons was the frequent obstruction of life-saving humanitarian operations.  Threats and actual attacks on staff of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations had multiplied.  Without adequate regulation of international arms transfers and high common standards to guide national export decisions, the human tolls and financial cost would remain colossal.


Mr. RICHARDS ( Nigeria) said the primary objective of two General Assembly resolutions was to establish a treaty to regulate the arms trade and prevent the diversion of conventional weapons into the illicit market.  An arms trade treaty was the only way to do that, he said.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African continent, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the entire world had experienced the consequences of the uncontrolled arms trade, which had devastated communities socially, economically and developmentally.  The unnecessary displacement of persons was another symptom of an uncontrolled trade.


Small arms, light weapons and ammunition should most definitely be covered by the treaty, he continued.  Easy access and availability to unauthorized persons made small arms and light weapons “the perfect instrument of mass destruction”, and he hoped the treaty would address that.  “The world needs to act,” he said.  “We do not see an ATT without the most basic of arms:  small arms and light weapons.  Our children, your grandsons would one day point to these collective efforts.”


SUJATA MEHTA ( India) said the main goal of the treaty was preventing diversion of arms to illegal markets.  The treaty should also make a substantial contribution to international efforts in combating terrorism.  The treaty should respect States’ rights to self-defence and differing constitutional, legal and regulatory systems in various countries, and should avoid being intrusive or prescriptive with respect to national policies and procedures.


She said, given the time constraints, her country was willing to work towards a realistic balanced and implementable instrument through a process and an outcome based on consensus.  “On an issue as important at the ATT, rushing the process or imposing artificial timelines may be counter-productive,” she said.  The painstaking efforts and consensus building that produced existing agreements and instruments, including the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms and the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons, could be built upon by agreeing at this Conference on a common framework reflecting all States’ concerns, she said.


AMANUEL YOANESAJAWIN (South Sudan) said that civil wars in Africa had been exacerbated by the easy availability of conventional arms across the continent. South Sudan, therefore, attached great importance to the negotiation of a comprehensive and effective arms trade treaty. In arriving at such a treaty, the international community must adhere to the inherent right of all States to self-defence, as guaranteed in the United Nations Charter. South Sudan envisaged that the current Conference would result in the production of a strong arms trade treaty establishing the highest common standards for transfers of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons.  His country believed that the arms trade treaty could be a bridge for building trust.  In addition, South Sudan supported the idea of the creation of a secretariat unit to promote the fair implementation of the treaty.  As for the non-paper prepared by the President, he believed it was objective, but it could be further improved.  The world had high expectations from the Conference and the participants had an obligation not to let it down.


MOHAMMAD KHAZAEE ( Iran) said that his country, and a considerable number of other States, had already expressed reservations about the advisability of developing an arms trade treaty at the current juncture.  Discussions during the preparatory committee meetings clearly demonstrated the existence of a wide difference on the real need for such a treaty and also extremely diverging views regarding issues such as objectives, principles, scope and especially parameters.


“In such a situation and in the absence of an acceptable text as a starting point for negotiating this very complex treaty, preparation of a compilation of concrete proposals of Member States is very crucial for facilitating the negotiations,” he said.  The only purpose of a future treaty should be to prevent the diversion of conventional arms into the illicit market, while respecting States’ rights to self-defence and striking a balance between the rights, obligations and interests of arms exporting and importing countries.  The scope would be a determining factor in the acceptance of treaty provisions, he said, highlighting that his country was not in favour of including small arms and light weapons, ammunition, missiles, components of conventional arms, related technologies, services, equipment and material.  In terms of activities, the treaty should only include import and export, although his country would show some flexibility on the subject of transit, if the role of the transit country could be defined at the minimum possible level.  Entry into force of the treaty should be subject to its ratification, among others, by 10 major arms exporting and 10 major arms-importing States, he said.


NELSON MESSONE ( Gabon) said his country had made great efforts towards addressing the issues of regulating the arms trade.  His country was committed to negotiating an arms trade treaty, which would include shared international standards with full respect of United Nations Charter rights.  “It was high time that the international community closed a legal gap and adopt an instrument that would regulate weapons that had become weapons of mass destruction,” he said.  The scope should include small arms and light weapons, and activities should cover import, export, transit and brokering of conventional arms.  Sales of weapons to militias should be banned under the treaty. 


“It is essential we arrive at our objectives,” he said.  “We need a binding instrument to be an essential tool to combat organized crime and trafficking.  Piracy and the use of child soldiers cannot be eradicated without regulating the arms trade.”


Mr. D’OLIVERA ( Benin) stressed the need for the regulation of the international trade in conventional weapons within a legally binding framework.  Benin believed that the negotiations to be held in the days to come would be a way for the international community to finally tackle the problem faced by those in the field. It believed that an Arms Trade Treaty needed to be robust, broad, universal and non-discriminatory, in order to be effective in preventing weapons from falling into the hands of non-state actors and other such groups. It had to address, in detail, the issues of concern to Member States.  Like the majority of developing States, Benin had great hopes for the negotiations and hoped that they would uphold the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.


He said that small arms and light weapons were the veritable weapons of mass destruction of today.  Those weapons were awash on battlefields and were sold in markets across Africa.  An arms trade treaty must, therefore, cover them.  In addition, an arms trade treaty would only have meaning if it contained provisions for action against trafficking in small arms and light weapons, but without affecting the legitimate right of states to self-defence.  He added that since a weapon without munitions had no value, it was equally important that the question of munitions be included in the treaty.  He urged delegations to look beyond the obstacles of today and to think about the future rewards promised by an arms trade treaty as they undertook the negotiations.


JONES APPLERH ( Ghana) expressed support for the President’s non-paper and said that it should serve as a basis for the negotiations for the treaty.  The poorly regulated trade in conventional weapons had fuelled human rights abuses around the world and an arms trade treaty would help to address that problem.  He reaffirmed his country’s position that such a treaty should regulate conventional arms from a humanitarian perspective.  It must respect states’ right to self-defence and should reflect the humanitarian concerns that gave rise to the negotiations in the first place.  Ghana supported the proposal that the scope of the treaty should include all weapons and small arms and light weapons.  It should also cover the associated technology, equipment, parts and components.  Transfers of conventional weapons should not be authorised where there was a risk that such weapons would be used in violation of international humanitarian law, or international human rights law.  The provisions of the treaty should apply to all international transfers and agents, commercial operations and to organised non-state actors.  In view of the humanitarian approach, Ghana expected the negotiations would come up with a treaty that provided for appropriate national control mechanisms.


Mr. FATKOWSKI ( Poland) said his country believed a strong treaty would benefit all parties in bringing about more responsibility in the arms trade and improving mutual confidence in security matters.  The full version of his statement would be available on the Conference web site, he said.


RAYMOND SERGE BALÉ ( Congo) said the discussions so far had been a sounding board for the design of a new order to address the problems of illegal weapons worldwide.  Despite contradictions on certain aspects of the treaty, commitment was unswerving and steadfast, he said.  The treaty must be sure to meet the expectations of States and people.


Central Africa, which had suffered greatly from the consequences of uncontrolled arms flows, had committed to the African approach.  There was a vital need for the treaty to integrate a wide array of weapons, he said.  During the last session of the Preparatory Committee all delegates recognized the need for consensus and the Conference should be an opportunity for real dialogue towards the goal of saving millions of lives threatened by the irresponsible trade.


ROBERT GUBA AISI ( Papua New Guinea) said that his country supported the inclusion of small arms and light weapons in the treaty.  The proliferation of those weapons posed serious challenges to many countries.  While looking forward to a treaty, Papua New Guinea reaffirmed the importance of staying true to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter on the inherent right of all states to self-defence.  It was also important to be mindful that effective implementation of an arms trade treaty would require monitoring.  Papua New Guinea supported the call for international assistance to be provided to those states that needed it, in order to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations contained in the treaty.  His country also supported the proposal for the establishment of an implementation support unit for the treaty.


Mr. CAMARA ( Burkina Faso) said that the stakes for a legally binding arms trade treaty were numerous and varied, but his country believed that the legitimate need for peace and security would prevail in the negotiations.  The West Africa subregion had seen the impact of illicit trading in small arms and light weapons.  Consequently, the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons reflected the determination of the subregion to try to make up for the absence of an international instrument to eradicate that scourge.  In Burkina Faso, a national commission had also been established to combat small arms and light weapons.  The country, in addition, monitored the import of all weapons by both the Government and individuals.


The ECOWAS Convention and the steps taken at regional and subregional levels to tackle the problem of the illicit trade in conventional weapons should constitute a basis for the negotiations for an arms trade treaty, he went on.  The treaty should enhance the local efforts that had been made.  Burkina Faso expected that the current negotiations should lead to a legally binding document built on provisions that already existed in the West Africa subregion’s ECOWAS Convention. 


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.